Friday, March 23 , 2018, 11:53 pm | Fair 51º


Old Spanish Days Fiesta Honors Current, Past Leaders at Recepcion del Presidente

2012 El Presidente Ricardo Castellanos is among the honorees of the festive celebration at Fess Parker's DoubleTree Resort

On the brink of the five-day Old Spanish Days 2012 celebration, the Recepcion del Presidente held at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort welcomed a sold-out crowd to the beautiful seaside Plaza del Sol honoring past and current Fiesta leaders representing the largest historic festival in Santa Barbara, now in its 88th year.

“The Recepcion del Presidente honors our current El Presidente and our past presidentes for their continued commitment to preserving the history and traditions of Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara,” said Stephanie Petlow, vice presidenta of celebrations.

Partygoers arrived at least 20 minutes before the patio doors leading to the rotunda were scheduled to open, and the lobby was busting at the seams with Fiesta fervor as dozens of attendees clad in colorful Fiesta costumes and ranch attire mingled and lounged on comfy leather couches eagerly waiting for the festivities to commence.

Old Spanish Days is a family celebration, and the spirit of hospitality and tradition was embraced as Fiesta members 2012 El Presidente Ricardo Castellanos, Primer Vice Presidente Josiah Jenkins, Saint Barbara Elizabeth Cook, Spirit of Fiesta Sabrina Ibarra, 19, and Junior Spirits Sadee Broida, 12, and Jesalyn McCollum,11, formed a reception line and welcomed guests who filed onto the spacious patio.

Fiesta dignatario and City Councilman Randy Rowse circulated among the masses of sombreros and cowboy hats enjoying live music from a mariachi band. As he took in festive scenery, he told Noozhawk that the reception was one of his favorite events of the week.

“Tonight we are here to honor presidentes, and this reception gives our community the opportunity to also pay tribute to our newest El Presidente, Ricardo, who put in so much work all year long to help make Fiesta a success,” Rowse said.

An El Presidente must work his or her way up through the organization, serving on a variety of committees from mercados, finance, pageantry and more, and is responsible for fundraising and acting as the chief operating officer for the organization before getting elected to the position.

The reception reflects the culmination of all the hard work and the tireless dedication by the El Presidente that results in a fantastic Fiesta for all.

“I’ve been a board member for 12 years, but I’ve volunteered at Fiesta events years before that,” Castellanos said. “I started out when my cousin Christine Gallagher was La Presidente in 2003, and I just wanted to get in to help her out, but I ended up liking it so much that I decided to stay on.”

Castellanos, 38, the third youngest of the past 66 El Presidentes, said he started at the very bottom of the organization assisting in minuscule tasks ranging from erecting stages to ordering porta-potties for the events.

“It was trying at times back then, but I stuck with it and learned the ropes,” Castellanos said. “I was very fortunate to chair the Mission with Father Virgil in 2004 for six years.”

The youngest of five siblings, Castellanos explained that he chose this year’s theme, “Viva La Family” (long live the family), because he wanted to pay tribute to all the generations of families in Santa Barbara who have cultivated deep roots within the community.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be El Presidente, but it’s not always about me; it’s about honoring generations of families in Santa Barbara. They are part of the close-knit family of the city and deserved to be recognized,” Castellanos said. “I’m just a speck in the whole history of Fiesta.”

Castellanos also selected this year’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta poster, “dancing couple,” featuring a classic scene of dancers Jose Manero and Kay Chapman that originally debuted in 1953, and is attributed to local artists Richard and Olive Smith.

Master of ceremonies and past presidentes Kris Kallman, 1994, and Michael Mendoza, 1998, joined together during the award presentation as salutations were made to city and county officials in the audience, including Mayor Helene Schneider, dressed for the occasion in a sleeveless yellow blouse with a festive black ruffled skirt with white polka dots.

Schneider also addressed the crowd, praising Castellanos and Fiesta board members for their efforts.

“I also want to acknowledge all the past presidentes who are here tonight,” she said. “This is your night to celebrate all the work you’ve done to get us here today. So thank you so much.”

Castellanos, who preceded the mayor, also expressed his heartfelt gratitude to past presidentes within the crowd, and presented longtime donors with framed and autographed 2012 Fiesta posters.

Dave Clarke, president of Impulse Advanced Communications, George Leis, president Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, Art Smith, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Union Bank, (each bank donated $50,000), and Helen Correll, CEO of Jordano’s, accepting for Peter Jordano, proudly held the precious keepsakes on behalf of their respective organizations.

Fess Parker’s DoubleTree director of catering Kathy Ackley was also awarded a signed poster and has overseen the catering of Fiesta events at the resort for two decades. Ackley once again delivered as partygoers helped themselves to scrumptious cuisine at buffet tables provided under her keen direction as talented chefs whipped up a tasty blend of authentic dishes, including chicken and beef fajitas served with warm homemade tortillas, refried beans, Spanish rice and beef tamales.

Castellanos was also surprised by past presidentes, who presented him with a beautifully framed collage of his relatives, the Osuna family, whose lineage and presence in Santa Barbara dates back to the 1800s.

There was a spirit of unification in the crowd all evening, and the celebration roared on into the evening with breathtaking dance performances by the 2012 Spirit of Fiesta, Ibarra, and Junior Spirits, Broida and McCollum, plus live entertainment by Pepe Marquez and the Latin Soul Review.

Click here for more information and a schedule of upcoming Old Spanish Days Fiesta events.

Fiesta 2012 graciously thanks all of this year’s sponsors, including:

» Titanium level: Jordano’s, Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort, Impulse Advanced Communications, MarBorg Industries, Cox, KEYT-3 and Albertsons

» Gold level: Bartlett Pringle & Wolf LLP, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Wells Fargo, Business First Bank and Montecito Bank & Trust

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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